Man's best friend may be responsible for transporting a Lyme Disease carrying tick or two to the Suncoast, and you better watch out. “If it's on your dog, it may be on you, too,” says Suncoast veterinarian Dr. Don Swerida says check thoroughly if you find even one. “For every tick you see there may be some baby ticks that you don't see. I mean ticks that are smaller than a sesame seed.”
Sarasota rheumatologist Dr. John Desmond O'Duffy says there may be signs at the site of the tick bite. “They might have a very large red blotch, anywhere from an inch or two in diameter up to a foot in diameter.”
Although predominantly contracted and diagnosed elsewhere, there have been two cases on the Suncoast. “They were late stage Lyme, presenting in a neurologic fashion.”
Ticks are on the move and they're heading our way, says Susan Hardin, who works for WWSB TV. “I got Lyme Disease in Georgia.” She belongs to a Florida Lyme Disease support group. “We have hundreds of members who were bit here in Florida.”
Hardin's diagnosis came after symptoms presented. “I had a neck that became very stiff, and couldn’t move it at all. I was going to therapy and couldn't get any help with it. And then within a couple of weeks my knee swelled to the size bigger than grapefruits.”
She tested positive for Lyme Disease and three of its co-infectors, and is still undergoing treatment and battling symptoms. “Sometimes the symptoms of fatigue and non-specific symptoms may make it very difficult for the doctor to know if that patient still has Lyme Disease.”
Traditional treatment for Lyme Disease is somewhat limited to antibiotics. But, if you spot a tick, your best offense may be a good defense. “Thumb and index finger; I pick it off and stick it in a little container of soapy water. Check for ticks as good as you can and flush them down the toilet. Don't try to pop them or break them or nothing.”
A rash doesn’t always appear, and Lyme Disease is often mistaken for other conditions. Deer and dogs are not the only animals to carry the ticks, and research finds rats are a major culprit for the spread here in Florida.